Thursday, June 14, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper just posted to SSRN authored by A. Lee Hannah. Here is its abstract:
Why did the state of Ohio adopt a medical marijuana policy? And why did it do so in 2016? This article addresses these questions by examining the diffusion of medical cannabis policy across the U.S., by describing the evolution of images related to the policy, and by exploring the content of the law.
Using evidence from legislators’ remarks on the floor of the Ohio General Assembly and interviews with activists and analysts, I show that the direct initiative helped push members of the Ohio General Assembly to write and adopt a medical marijuana law (MML) when they were unlikely to do so. Next, I analyze trends in media coverage of medical marijuana to demonstrate that the spread of the policy has also been aided by shifting images related to the beneficiaries of medical cannabis programs. Turning to the content of the law, I find that Ohio’s MML is written similarly to later adopters in the Midwest – where laws are more restrictive and medicalized. Finally, I assess how the characteristics of the law and looming elections will affect the implementation of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program.
Monday, June 11, 2018
The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Drugs and the Law (“the Committee”) respectfully submits this report examining and approving the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana for adult non-medical use in New York State and providing support for A.3506-B/S.3040-B (“the Legislation”), which would create a system for the production, distribution, and adult non-medical use of marijuana. We also recommend, if feasible, minor revisions to the Legislation, as noted herein. The Committee also takes this opportunity to express its support for the policy of ending criminalization of marijuana, and for taxing and responsible regulation of marijuana...
The Committee on Drugs and the Law supports this Legislation to create a legal, regulated market for adult non–medical use of marijuana in New York State. New York was the first state to turn away from alcohol Prohibition in 1923, and the Committee hopes the state will show similar leadership on this analogous issue, whether through this Legislation or another vehicle. Marijuana prohibition is a costly and ineffective policy that has not succeeded in eliminating marijuana use. The failed policy has devastated families and communities, eroded respect for the law, and strained police-citizen relations. Accordingly, the Committee applauds this Legislation and urges its adoption. Further, regardless of the vehicle, the Committee supports state and federal legislative and policy changes that reduce or eliminate criminalization of marijuana and that permit, tax, and regulate the production, distribution, and adult use of marijuana.
I think it somewhat amusing (and I suppose a bit depressing) that the conclusion of this document notes that New York "turn[ed] away from alcohol Prohibition" only three years after federal Prohibition became effective in January 1920. We are now 48 years since the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 gave marijuana the prohibition treatment and New York has still not yet gotten around to turning away.
June 11, 2018 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, June 8, 2018
Rounding-up some notable and thoughtful reactions to the new STATES Act approach to federal marijuana reform
As noted in this prior post, President Donald Trump this morning seemingly indicated support for the new marijuana reform law proposed yesterday by Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representatives David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). The proposal, knows as Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act), has already drawn reactions both political and academic. Here is a round up:
Tom Angell has collected a lot of notable reactions at Marijuana Moment under the heading, "Lawmakers And Advocates React To Bipartisan Trump-Supported Marijuana Bill"
For more detailed and academic perspectives, I highly recommend:
- Rob Mikos at Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority, "Analysis of the Warren-Gardner STATES Act"
- Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy, "Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren Introduce Bill Largely Abolishing Federal Ban on Marijuana in States that have Legalized it Under their Own Laws"
Prior related posts:
- Members of Congress introduce STATES Act described as "Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies"
- President Donald Trump suggests he supports new STATES Act effort to reform federal marijuana prohibition
June 8, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Members of Congress introduce STATES Act described as "Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies"
As reported in this press release, titled "Gardner, Warren, Joyce and Blumenauer Unveil Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies," today has brought a big interesting new federal marijuana reform proposal. Here are the details via the press release (with links from the original):
U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Representatives David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) today introduced the bicameral, bipartisan Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) to ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders. The bill also extends these protections to Washington D.C, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes, and contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribes regulating marijuana do so safely.
Forty-six states currently have laws permitting or decriminalizing marijuana or marijuana-based products - and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and a number of tribes have similar laws. As states developed their own approaches to marijuana enforcement, the Department of Justice issued guidance to safeguard these state actions and ensure practical use of limited law enforcement resources. However, this guidance was withdrawn earlier this year, creating legal uncertainty, threatening
public health and safety, and undermining state regulatory regimes....
Ignoring the ability of states, territories, and tribes to determine for themselves what type of marijuana regulation works best comes with real costs. Legitimate businesses that comply with state laws are blocked from access to basic banking services. Illicit markets often spring up and local law enforcement must divert resources needed elsewhere. Thousands of people are prosecuted and locked up in our criminal justice system. Qualified scientists and state public health departments struggle to conduct basic and epidemiological research or spur medical advances, and the fundamental nature of state and tribal sovereignty is violated. As more states, territories, and tribes thoughtfully consider updates to marijuana regulations, often through voter-initiated referendums, it is critical that Congress take immediate steps to safeguard their right to do so by passing the STATES Act.
The legislation has been endorsed by organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Safe Access, Americans for Tax Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign for Liberty, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cooperative Credit Union Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Liberty, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the National Cannabis Bar Association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the New Federalism Fund,NORML, the Northwest Credit Union Association, R Street, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
The STATES Act:
- Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that - as long as states and tribes comply with a few basic protections - its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with State or tribal laws relating to marijuana activities.
- Clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
- Removes industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances under the CSA.
- The following federal criminal provisions under the CSA continue to apply:
- Prohibits endangering human life while manufacturing marijuana.
- Prohibits employment of persons under age 18 in drug operations.
- Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
- Prohibits the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.
June 7, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
"Pacta Sunt Servanda -- State Legalization of Marijuana and Subnational Violations of International Treaties: A Historical Perspective"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Brian Blumenfeld now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:
In November 2012, voters in the states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana industries. Since then, six additional states and the District of Columbia have followed suit, and many more have seen legalization debates in their legislative halls and among their electorates. Over twenty bills introduced in the 115th Congress seek to break federal marijuana laws away from prohibition. Although the national debate is indeed a vibrant one, it has neglected to address how legalization may be jeopardizing the compliance status of the United States under international drug treaties, and what the consequences may be if legalization means breach.
For decision-making over marijuana policy to produce creditable outcomes, it must take into consideration the factor of international relations. Subnational conduct implicating treaty commitments is in fact not without precedent in America, and one episode in particular — notable for its contributions to the nation’s constitutional origins — reveals how treaty noncompliance can degrade a nation’s diplomatic standing. This article examines both past and present controversies, and uses the advantages of historical perspective to draw international drug law issues into the legalization debate.
Monday, June 4, 2018
This news release reports on an interesting new Gallup survey concerning American moral perspectives. Here are excerpts:
Large majorities of Americans believe that using substances like alcohol and marijuana are morally permissible. Specifically, 78% say drinking alcohol is morally acceptable and 65% say smoking marijuana is.
Alcohol and marijuana rank near the top of the list of practices Americans consider morally acceptable. Only birth control, at 91%, gets a higher percentage sanctioning it than drinking alcohol does. Smoking marijuana trails birth control, drinking alcohol and divorce (76%), but is on par with widely accepted acts including gambling, sex between an unmarried man and woman, gay or lesbian relations, stem cell research, and having a baby outside of marriage.
Americans are least likely to regard married men and women having an affair, cloning humans, polygamy and suicide as morally OK. Their opinions are most closely divided on morality of abortion -- 43% believe it is morally acceptable and 48% believe it is not.
Gallup's trends on many of these items date back to 2001. On most, Americans have adopted more permissive views over time. Presumably, this also applies to the new item on smoking marijuana, given the surge over the past two decades in the percentage who say that smoking the drug should be legal. In fact, the 64% who last fall said marijuana should be legal nearly matches the 65% who say smoking it is morally acceptable.
Majorities of key subgroups of Americans regard both drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana as morally acceptable, but highly religious Americans, as measured by the frequency with which they attend church, are less likely to do so. Whereas 88% of those who seldom or never attend religious services find drinking alcohol to be morally acceptable, 60% of those who attend weekly hold that view. And while three-quarters of non-attenders say smoking marijuana is OK, less than half of regular churchgoers, 41%, agree.
Other subgroup differences, including those by gender, age, race and political ideology, appear to reflect differences in church attendance among those groups. For example, nonwhites, women, older Americans and conservatives are more likely to attend church but less likely to say smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol are OK.
In nearly every key subgroup, a greater percentage say drinking alcohol is morally acceptable than says the same about smoking marijuana. Young adults, ideological liberals and moderates are notable exceptions, as these three groups are about equally likely to find the two practices morally acceptable. In contrast to liberals and moderates, ideological conservatives are far more likely to view drinking alcohol (75%) than smoking marijuana (47%) as acceptable moral behavior.
Most Americans do not object on moral grounds to people drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. Of the two, they are more likely to see drinking alcohol as an acceptable behavior, perhaps because it is legal in all states while smoking marijuana is not. Some states have recently legalized marijuana and many others are considering doing so, perhaps removing some of the stigma associated with the drug. But with roughly two-thirds of the public saying marijuana use is morally acceptable, it seems there will not be sufficient opposition to thwart attempts to make it legal.
Friday, May 25, 2018
As we head into a long weekend, I have noticed a few interesting reads about modern marijuana reform realities:
- From The Atlantic by Ronald Brownstein here, "Will Texas Follow Houston’s Lead on Drug-Policy Reform?: District Attorney Kim Ogg is rapidly implementing progressive policies in Harris County—and she intends to be a model for the rest of her state."
From Forbes by Julie Weed here, "Advice To New Jersey, The Garden State, As It Expands Its Cannabis Market"
From Slate by Alex Halperin here, "Why the Marijuana Industry Wants Friends Like John Boehner: And why the low-regulation future some growers crave is the wrong one."
- From the Washington Post by Judith Grisel here, "Pot Holes: Legalizing marijuana is fine. But don’t ignore the science on its dangers."
May 25, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, May 19, 2018
For many reasons, New York is an important and interesting state to watch in the array of debates over marijuana reform. And another notable voice chimed in yesterday in the form of the New York Daily News editorial board, which published this editorial headlined "End the war on pot: We welcome the push to legalize and regulate marijuana." Here are excerpts from an effective editorial:
After many decades of treating as a crime the personal possession and use of a drug that is a negligible threat to public safety, New York is awakening to the folly of — and racial disparities widened by — its approach.
We are part of this awakening, which is why we welcome the push to legalize and regulate marijuana. By every honest measure, the substance has more in common with alcohol and tobacco than it does harder drugs that are rightly illegal.
Which is not to say we endorse vaping or toking, or that government should. Legalization can coexist with stigmatization, especially for young people, for whom drug use and abuse is disastrous.
But continuing to turn the punitive gears of the criminal justice system against 50 people per day in the five boroughs for so much as touching a drug that countless adults use harmlessly in the privacy of their own homes does not serve New York.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, making it an infraction with a $100 fine. In the intervening 40 years, hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested. Police in the five boroughs continue to make some 17,000 arrests annually for pot possession. Though that's down 40% since 2013, due in large part to a rise in criminal summonses, it's still high.
And despite the fact that research shows marijuana is used in about equal numbers by whites, blacks and Latinos, blacks and Latinos make up 86% of arrestees. Those two groups account for just 51% of the city's overall population. Even the NYPD's chief of crime control strategies has said this gulf "should be troubling to anyone." While it's true that arrests are often driven by calls to 311 and 911, analysis by the Daily News this year showed the association to be far weaker than the city claims. The New York Times matched ethnically different neighborhoods with almost identical complaint levels — and found that the predominantly white and Asian neighborhoods generally saw orders of magnitude fewer arrests than the predominantly black and Latino ones.
This stubborn racial enforcement disparity points to a fundamental question: why it makes sense to treat marijuana use as a nail to be hit with the hammer of cuffs, cops and courts, saddling individuals with arrest records and sometimes, though infrequently, jail time for partaking....
Nine U.S. states, including Colorado, Massachusetts, California and Alaska, have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use. New Jersey is leaning strongly in the same direction.
Where the drug has been legalized, fears that taking sales out of the black market and into the open would lead to a surge in violent crime and drug use have not materialized. There are trends worth worrying about, and learning from, such as an apparent rise in pot-related DWIs. But the sky has not fallen, or even noticeably darkened, anywhere that marijuana has gone from being a criminally forbidden substance to a taxed and regulated one.
By the same token, it is crucial to make clear that legalization advocates oversell their product with the suggestion it will eliminate stubborn policing disparities. No state that allows small amounts of marijuana to be sold and held for personal use permits public smoking, which remains anything from a non-criminal ticket to a criminal misdemeanor. In other words, it is properly an offense to be enforced, and that enforcement may prove racially disparate, following differences in behavior. So, too, would black-market sales remain against the law.
One alternative to legalization is decriminalization. Manhattan DA Cy Vance and Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez call for declining to prosecute pot possession while keeping it illegal on the books. While tempting, this could create a patchwork of enforcement whereby the same offense is treated radically differently across New York jurisdictions. We've gained little, and lost plenty, in waging this misbegotten war. It's time to try another way.
Thursday, May 10, 2018
In this post last year, I noted all the amazing work being done by Tom Angell at his "full-scale cannabis news portal" called Marijuana Moment. As is his norm, Tom and his team lately have been doing particularly strong original reporting on political developments at the Moment, and these recent postings struck me as especially worth highlighting:
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
A left-handed thanks from head of Drug Policy Alliance to Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his approach to marijuana policy
Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, has this notable recent commentary in USA Today under the headline "How anti-marijuana Jeff Sessions became the best thing to happen to pot legalization." This piece brings to mind some political points I made in this 2016 post not long after Jeff Sessions was nominated to be Attorney General by then Prez-elect Trump. Here are some excerpts from the commentary:
Jeff Sessions hates marijuana. He’s made that plain in multiple colorful quotes, from stating that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” to arguing that “we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is … in fact a very real danger.” But he may also turn out to be the best thing that’s happened to the marijuana reform movement in Washington.
For years, marijuana reform has moved at a snail’s pace in Washington. Even as more and more states — now 29 — legalized medical marijuana and increasing numbers legalized adult use of marijuana, Congress held back. Occasional efforts to remove marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances have been rejected. And advocates have had to fight every year to make sure that Congress included an amendment to its appropriations bills, to protect states that legalized medical marijuana from federal interference....
But in January, Sessions rescinded the Cole memo. Perhaps he thought that the decision would chill further reform or spread fear among the industry. Instead, his move seems to have galvanized policymakers. That same month, Vermont announced that it had legalized marijuana. Cities like Albuquerque, Savannah, Ga., and Baton Rouge are decriminalizing it. And now, we’re seeing a sea change in Washington, in both parties.
In response to Sessions’ decision, Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, threatened to block all Justice Department nominees. Eventually, he said he extracted from Trump a commitment that the Justice Department would not interfere with legal marijuana in Colorado, and that Trump would support legislation to protect states that had legalized medical and adult use marijuana.
Last month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., — historically not a big proponent of rolling back criminal laws like those on marijuana — announced that he would be introducing legislation to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, essentially leaving it up to the states to decide how to handle it. While this is not the same, even Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pushing a bill to legalize industrial hemp. His longtime colleague, former House Speaker John Boehner, recently made a high-profile entry into the medical marijuana industry....
And growing numbers of members of Congress are now sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, which Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced last August. That bill, modeled after California’s Proposition 64, would not only legalize marijuana, but also begin to repair the devastation wrought by decades of marijuana prohibition, allowing those convicted of possession to clear their records, access to the marijuana market for the communities most harmed by prohibition, and reinvestment of marijuana taxes in those communities....
Sessions himself seems to have been forced to moderate his rhetoric. In response to questions about marijuana enforcement at a recent Senate hearing, he said that his priorities lay elsewhere, and insisted that it was up to Congress to change the laws.
Of course, Sessions or some overeager U.S. attorney may still try to go after legal marijuana. Trump may renege on his commitment to Gardner. Things may still get worse on federal marijuana policy before they get better. But with more than 60% of the U.S. public behind reform, including majorities among young liberals and conservatives alike, there’s only so long that the federal government can continue to hold out against reform. And thanks to Sessions, change may come sooner than we thought.
In my 2016 post, which I titled "Bring it, Jeff: why I seriously doubt future AG Sessions will start a foolish new weed war federal offensive," I reviewed some of the reasons why I thought it would be very foolish politically for the Trump Administration to aggressively enforce federal marijuana prohibition. And critically, despite AG Sessions obvious disaffinity for state marijuana reforms, he still has made no serious effort to aggressively enforce federal marijuana prohibition. I surmise he would like to and he has some folks urging him to, but he knows that the political winds are blowing against any enforcement efforts here, and he clearly has other political and legal priorities.
Of course, after a year of internal deliberations, AG Session did pull back the Cole Memo, but this commentary astutely highlights how this (relatively modest) move has served to galvanize political forces supporting marijuana reform at the federal level. Any more significant marijuana enforcement, especially against any prominent state-compliant businesses, would seem likely to only enhance the political backlash and further elevate federal marijuana reform in public and political debates. Modern marijuana policy and practice thus serves as another great and important example of my concluding point in my prior post: the "Framers gave us a wonderful federal system of check-and-balances that has been pretty effective at keeping the big bad federal government from doing too many stupid things that are obviously against the considered will of the people."
May 8, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, May 7, 2018
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this recent Boston Globe article. (At the risk of getting redundant, I will again note ow this press piece is related in theme to my most recent article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices.") Here are excerpts from the Globe piece:
Last month, Massachusetts rolled out the country’s first statewide marijuana industry “equity” program, giving preferential treatment to people who are typically marginalized by the business world.
One key to the effort: giving a head start in the rush for cannabis licenses to companies that are led by or employ minorities, to people with past marijuana convictions, or to residents of low-income neighborhoods with high arrest rates for drug crimes. All other companies that grow, process, or sell pot, meanwhile, are required to help those communities, and are limited in the size of their operations. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission will also launch a training program for inexperienced pot entrepreneurs.
The provisions spring from a simple premise: People of color were disproportionately prosecuted and jailed amid the nation’s “war on drugs,” even though whites had similar rates for using or selling marijuana. It would be unfair, proponents argued, to allow the windfall of a now-legal cannabis industry to flow only to the already privileged, while those who suffered the most under pot prohibition remain frozen out. “We’re going to use this moment to try to rebalance the scales — or, at the very least, to stop creating new unbalanced scales,’’ said state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who helped to write the so-called equity provisions into state law.
While it may seem radical to give previously incarcerated people the right to sell a product that was illegal until recently, the equity provisions so far haven’t been particularly controversial. Even Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael, a fierce critic of legal marijuana, is on board. “It’s going to open the door for people who just wouldn’t otherwise have the ability and financial background to break in,” Carmichael said. “We have to give them a chance.”
As the commission developed its regulations this year, county prosecutors asked the agency to bar people convicted of trafficking certain still-illegal drugs such as heroin or fentanyl from even working at a cannabis company. “This is not an area for permissiveness,” the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association warned in a letter. The cannabis commission partially acquiesced, restricting such people to administrative positions that don’t involving handling marijuana products.
For owners of cannabis businesses, the bar is higher than for their employees. People convicted of serious crimes, including nonmarijuana drug felonies, firearm violations, and sex offenses, cannot own licensed pot companies. However, businesses can hire people with records for possessing opioids, for example, and receive preferential treatment if they employ enough people with criminal records. People convicted of large-scale marijuana trafficking may qualify under the rules, though some might have related convictions that would automatically disqualify them anyway. The commission also has discretion to reject any applicant.
Marijuana equity programs elsewhere operate only on the local level, and have a limited track record. Oakland, Calif., for example, this year adopted a policy that reserves more than half of the city’s licenses for equity applicants, and most of the rest for large companies that agree to host and mentor them. The system has indeed helped people of color break into the business — but it’s also drawn sharp backlash from smaller companies that do not qualify.
Massachusetts has taken a less restrictive approach. The primary initiative underway provides expedited review to applications from companies that meet certain criteria — those owned by people from places with high rates of poverty and drug arrests, for example, or that employ mostly people with drug-related convictions. It’s an important benefit, as many Massachusetts communities limit the number and locations of pot businesses, giving a big advantage to the first stores.
Later this year, the commission will work with community groups to develop a crash course in business planning and fund-raising for entrepreneurs who were arrested or live in so-called communities of disproportionate impact. Those entrepreneurs will also be exempt from many state fees and will be allowed to open pot-delivery services and lounges ahead of other companies if the commission decides to issue those licenses....
Entrepreneurs who do not have drug convictions or arrests can still qualify if they show their business will benefit poorer communities with high arrest rates. For example, Dishon Laing dreams of opening an alternative health center in his native Dorchester that would offer yoga, vegan food, and cannabis. He, too, wants to hire people with criminal records, and also plans to run drug education programs for teenagers. “Everything we do is connected to giving back,” said Laing, a city public health worker. “I know my partners and I will face stigma based on being people of color and the industry we’re in, but we want to show that we’re actually improving our communities.”
Another requirement is intended to recruit marijuana companies that don’t qualify for the equity program to the cause: All applicants must show how their businesses will benefit communities hurt by the drug war. For example, Sira Naturals, a larger medical marijuana operator that’s seeking recreational licenses, plans to host an incubator for equity applicants at its growing facility in Milford. Licensed marijuana businesses must also write and adhere to a diversity plan that promotes gender equity and the employment of veterans, LGBT people, and people with disabilities.
The commission also offers incentives: Companies that provide money and mentoring to entrepreneurs from “areas of disproportionate impact” can get the cannabis equivalent of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval: a “social justice leader” label affixed to their product packaging. State officials also have moved to protect smaller equity businesses by banning larger companies from holding more than three licenses of any type and capping each company’s cultivation area at 100,000 square feet.
All these advantages, however, may not help applicants overcome the biggest hurdle: winning approval from local officials for the location and opening of their businesses. Somerville and other municipalities are considering local versions of the equity program, but none have been adopted yet. Advocates are worried established companies — such as existing medical dispensaries, which are nearly all white-owned — can outbid smaller players by offering communities generous financial packages.
“Cities and towns need to step up, or in a few years we’ll see we had this opportunity to put diversity into action and we failed,” said Ross Bradshaw, who hopes to open a pot business in a Worcester neighborhood designated as an area of disproportionate impact. “There are going to be municipalities that only allow three licenses, and two are going to medical marijuana companies. That’s less opportunity for people of color.”
Cannabis commissioner Shaleen Title, who championed the equity initiatives, acknowledged they are hardly a cure-all. But Title is heartened by the early numbers: 68 applicants have cleared a first hurdle in the process for licensing, and more than 100 more under review. Those people would have their applications reviewed ahead of others. “We’ll never be able to repair the damage caused by drug prohibition, but these programs at least begin to help provide a fair shot,” Title said. “Think about having a conviction that was based on unfair enforcement, and how that holds you back in so many different ways — we want to make that right.”
May 7, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, April 30, 2018
Last night CNN aired the fourth installment of Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta's programming about marijuana. This Special Report was titled "
April 30, 2018 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, April 26, 2018
As reported in this local article, headlined "Michigan approves marijuana legalization vote for November," the Wolverine State is now positioned to be the latest political battleground for the debate over recreational marijuana reform. Here are the details:
The battle to free the weed officially started Thursday when the State Board of Canvassers ruled that a group pushing a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use got enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot. The 4-0 decision by the board was met with cheers by advocates for the proposal.
"The people of Michigan deserve this. They earned it," said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML. "We've faced many trials and tribulations. We've had so many stop and go signs from the federal government. That's why states have to take the reins on the issue and really be the crucibles of democracy that they've always been intended to be."
It was the second time that the coalition had turned in enough signatures to get on the ballot. The last time, however, it didn't get the signatures in a state-mandated 180-day window and the petition was thrown out. But the coalition didn't have the same problem this time around. "We expected this," said John Truscott, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Now we'll be out and about talking to people and educating them about the issues."
Scott Greenlee, executive director of the Healthy and Productive Michigan political action committee, which opposes the ballot proposal, urged the Board of Canvassers to keep the issue off the ballot because marijuana is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government. "By putting this on the ballot, you're disregarding federal law," he said. "I recognize that other states have done it, but like my mom always told me, 'Just because your friends jump off a bridge, doesn't mean you have to do the same thing.'"...
The Michigan marijuana ballot proposal would:
- Legalize the possession and sale of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for personal, recreational use.
- Impose a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales at the retail level as well as a 6% sales tax. The estimated revenues from the taxes are at least $100 million.
- Split those revenues with 35% going to K-12 education, 35% to roads, 15% to the communities that allow marijuana businesses in their communities and 15% to counties where marijuana business are located.
- Allow communities to decide whether they’ll permit marijuana businesses.
- Restrict purchases of marijuana for recreational purposes to 2.5 ounces but an individual could keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home.
- Allow the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), and not the politically appointed licensing board that will regulate the medical marijuana side of the market, to regulate and license marijuana businesses, ranging from growers, transporters, testers and dispensaries.
- Set up three classes of marijuana growers: up to 100, 500 and 2,000 plants.
Michigan voters have already weighed in on marijuana once, approving cannabis for medical use in 2008 by a 63%-37% margin. As of March, 1, 277,752 people are medical marijuana cardholders and 43,131 people are caregivers who can grow up to 72 plants for up to five cardholders. The state is in the process of vetting applications of people who want to get into the medial marijuana business, which is expected to generate at least $700 million in sales. That financial prediction is estimated to grow to more than $1 billion a year if voters pass the ballot proposal and Michigan becomes the ninth state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use....
But getting the ballot proposal passed is not a foregone conclusion, despite recent polls showing more than 60% support for legalizing marijuana. Healthy and Productive Michigan has $215,286 for the battle ahead, primarily from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a Virginia-based organization that supports cannabis for medical, but not recreational uses.
"We'll continue to press forward with education and explain to the public the problems that recreational marijuana will cause in our state," Greenlee said. "And once it's certified for the ballot, we'll have a number of people from Michigan who will come in and support us."
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has raised more than $1 million, but spent the vast majority on paying the firm that collected petition signatures. According to campaign finance reports filed this week with the Secretary of State, the coalition has only $17,326 in available cash for the upcoming campaign.
April 26, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new Bloomberg article headlined "Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Backing of Key Republican in House." Here are the interesting details from the piece:
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has agreed to co-sponsor a Florida Republican’s bipartisan bill to make medical marijuana research easier, his office confirmed on Wednesday.
That backing by the conservative Virginia Republican potentially bolsters the bill’s chances in the House. Representative Matt Gaetz started circulating a handout Tuesday night explaining his Medical Cannabis Research Act, with Goodlatte listed as a co-sponsor. "I can confirm that the chairman will co-sponsor," said Kathryn Rexrode, a spokesman for Goodlatte, who is not running for re-election, in an email.
A spokesman for Gaetz said the measure was to be introduced on Wednesday or Thursday, with its sponsors set to hold a news conference on Thursday.... A draft of the legislation was also obtained Tuesday by Bloomberg News -- as well as a separate summary Gaetz was circulating outside the House chamber.
That summary listed current co-sponsors as Goodlatte and fellow Republicans Dana Rohrabacher of California and Karen Handel of Georgia; as well as Democrats Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto of Florida; Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.
The measure, as described would increase the number of federally approved manufacturers of cannabis for research purposes, and it would also provide a "safe harbor" for researchers and patients in clinical trials so that institutions such as universities would not risk losing federal funding. The bill makes it clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs could refer patients for clinical trials, and eligible researchers at the VA could perform research on medical cannabis.
Clear standards on federally approved growers would be imposed. At the same time, the measure was described as fostering innovation, making it easier for industry leaders to work with researchers to develop new scientific breakthroughs.
Even so, the chances that most of Gaetz’s Republican colleagues will help him pass the bill in an election year are slim. And the odds of Sessions reversing course are also long....
Asked if he’s talked to the attorney general about his new bill, Gaetz said he has not. He joked of Sessions, "doesn’t call or visit me anymore." Gaetz is among House conservatives who have been criticizing the Justice Department in unrelated battles over providing Congress documents tied to the FBI’s handing of its investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the Russia inquiry led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump offered qualified support for legalization while on the presidential campaign trail, saying that medical marijuana “should happen” and that laws regarding recreational usage should be left in the hands of the states. Trump made his assurances this month after Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, a state that has legalized marijuana, had held up Justice Department nominees.
This article is right to suggest that the odds of any marijuana reform making it through Congress these days are slim. But because the Medical Cannabis Research Act sounds like a very modest proposal that has the backing of a key Committee Chair, this bill would seems to at least have some chance. Indeed, because there are a number of other more robust federal marijuana reform proposals gaining attention and sponsors, it strikes me as even possible that AG Jeff Sessions might not oppose this proposal as actively as he may be inclined to oppose others making the rounds. That all said, I still think the most likely answer to the question in the title of this post is "no."
UPDATE: Over here at Marijuana Moment, Tom Angell has more details on the provisions of the Medical Cannabis Research Act.
Paul J. Larkin Jr., a senior legal research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, has this interesting new Fox News commentary headlined "On marijuana, let the Food and Drug Administration make the decisions." Here are excerpts:
Reports about the Trump-Gardner deal and Schumer proposal [to reform federal marijuana laws and policies] raise several additional questions:
· Will the federal government pursue an entirely new policy regarding marijuana regulation?
· If so, will that new direction leave decision-making entirely up to the states?
· If not, will the federal government still play a role?
· Will that change lead to a net social plus or minus?
The answer to each of those questions is the same: “Maybe yes, maybe no.” That’s because there is another possible option lying between “absolute federal ban” and “complete state freedom.”...
In 1962, Congress also prohibited the distribution of new drugs unless the FDA commissioner first found them to be both “safe” and “effective.” Since then, Congress has consistently reiterated that the FDA should be responsible for making those decisions – not Congress, not the states, not the public. It’s an important matter. We do not decide by plebiscite which drugs should be sold to the public. America has resolved that experts should make that decision because the average person lacks the education, training and experience to answer the medical question of whether a particular drug is safe and effective.
Why should we treat marijuana differently? For more than two decades, states have decided to reconsider their marijuana laws and permit people to use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes even though the distribution of marijuana is forbidden under federal law. Three presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – each failed to force Congress to decide whether federal law should also be re-examined.
President Trump may be willing to do what his three predecessors should have done. It is time for Congress to take up this subject once again. Great nations, like great people, always must be willing to reconsider their laws in light of new developments. It makes sense for Congress to revisit this issue.
But that does not mean senators and representatives should act in a vacuum, without regard for the nation’s designated authority on food and drug safety. Nor should members of Congress simply act according to polling results. We do not let the public decide which antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, or chemotherapy drugs can be marketed. There is no reason to treat marijuana differently.
Congress has never let the FDA decide this issue, because federal law has treated marijuana as contraband since the year before the FDCA became law. Maybe we should treat marijuana in the same way that we treat any other new drug that someone argues should be used therapeutically.
No healthy democracy can afford to glibly disregard the opinions of experts on matters within their expertise. Since 1962, the United States has decided to trust the FDA with the responsibility to resolve any debate, either within or beyond the scientific community, over a drug’s safety and efficacy. That decision is entitled to no less respect today than it was 50 years ago.
So maybe Congress will re-examine the treatment of marijuana under federal law and send the nation in a new direction. But maybe that new direction will be to leave the decision how to treat marijuana in the hands of the person we trust to make other, similar decisions: the commissioner of food and drugs. And maybe that approach will be a net social plus. We certainly think so with respect to other drugs. Perhaps, it’s time to enlist the FDA commissioner to make a scientific judgment about this issue too.
April 25, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Food and Drink, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, April 23, 2018
States reforming marijuana laws should be particularly concerned with remedying the past inequities and burdens of mass criminalization. State marijuana reforms should not only offer robust retroactive ameliorative relief opportunities for prior marijuana offenses, but also dedicate resources generated by marijuana reform to create and fund new institutions to assess and serve the needs of a broad array of offenders looking to remedy the collateral consequences of prior involvement in the criminal justice system. So far, California stands out among reform states for coupling repeal of marijuana prohibition with robust efforts to enable and ensure the erasure of past marijuana convictions. In addition to encouraging marijuana reform states to follow California’s lead in enacting broad ameliorative legislation, this essay urges policy makers and reform advocates to see the value of linking and leveraging the commitments and spirit of modern marijuana reform and expungement movements.
Part II begins with a brief review of the history of marijuana prohibition giving particular attention to social and racial dynamics integral to prohibition, its enforcement and now its reform. Part III turns to recent reform activities focused on mitigating the punitive collateral consequences of a criminal conviction with a focus on the (mostly limited) efforts of marijuana reform states to foster the erasure of marijuana convictions. Part IV sketches a novel proposal for connecting modern marijuana reform and expungement movements. This part suggest a new criminal justice institution, a Commission on Justice Restoration, to be funded by the taxes, fees and other revenues generated by marijuana reforms and to be tasked with proactively working on policies and practices designed to minimize and ameliorate undue collateral consequences for people with criminal convictions.
Cross-posted at Sentencing Law & Policy
April 23, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, April 20, 2018
Because of the date on the calendar, there is today waaaaaay too much mainstream press coverage of marijuana issues for me to cover in this space. But I cannot ignore it all, and the headline of this post is the headline of this new Atlantic piece by Reihan Salam that seemed worth spotlighting. Here is how it starts and its core proposal:
The marijuana wars are entering a new phase. The first phase, over whether or not to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, is over. The partisans of legalization have won the battle for public opinion. Soon, I suspect, marijuana legalization will be entrenched in federal law. At this point, to fight against legalization is to fight against the inevitable. The only question now is what form America’s legal marijuana markets will take. Will they be dominated by for-profit business enterprises with a vested interest in promoting binge consumption? Or will they be designed to minimize the very real harms caused by cannabis dependence, even if that means minting fewer marijuana millionaires? I fear that the burgeoning cannabis industry will win out—but their victory is not yet assured....
The fundamental challenge, as [Jonathan] Caulkins argues, is that cannabis is a dependence-inducing intoxicant, and a cheap one at that. In Washington state, a marijuana-legalization pioneer, he observes that the cost per hour of cannabis intoxication “has fallen below $1, cheaper than beer or going to the movies.” This is despite the fact that the state’s marijuana growers and distributors operate in a grey zone — legal at the state level, but not legal at the federal level — which leaves them ineligible for the federal tax deductions to which all more straightforwardly legal businesses are entitled.
If marijuana were largely consumed by adults who partake rarely and responsibly, this would not be much of a concern. According to Caulkins, though, only about one in three cannabis users fall into this fortunate category, and they account for no more than 2 percent of total consumption. Meanwhile, daily and near-daily users account for 80 percent of total consumption, and a far larger share of the profits of your friendly neighborhood marijuana business. Yes, there are cancer patients who use regularly marijuana to ease their pain, and there are traumatized veterans who do much the same. I am happy to concede that cannabis abuse is preferable to opioid abuse. But let’s not kid ourselves: Marijuana, Inc., thrives by catering to binge users, many of whom explicitly state that their dependence is getting in the way of their lives. By the time the cost of an hour of cannabis intoxication falls below $1 nationwide, the picture will start to change: The number of people who will turn to marijuana as a form of self-medication, or as a form of escape, will drastically increase. And most of them will be poor and vulnerable people, not the affluent bohemians so affectionately portrayed on HBO dramedies.
In a 2014 essay for Washington Monthly, Mark A.R. Kleiman, who along with Caulkins is one of the country’s leading experts on drug policy, anticipated the outsized role the marijuana industry would play in debates to come: “As more and more states begin to legalize marijuana over the next few years, the cannabis industry will begin to get richer—and that means it will start to wield considerably more political power, not only over the states but over national policy, too.” As a result, he warned, “we could get locked into a bad system in which the primary downside of legalizing pot — increased drug abuse, especially by minors — will be greater than it needs to be, and the benefits, including tax revenues, smaller than they could be.”
Is it possible to legalize marijuana without drastically increasing the number of Americans who find themselves dependent on it? I certainly hope so. In my ideal world, Congess would establish a federal monopoly on the sale and distribution of narcotics, including but not limited to cannabis, with an eye towards minimizing the size of the black market and avoiding the aggressive marketing and lobbying that would inevitably accompany the emergence of a large for-profit industry. But I recognize that this is, for now, a pipe dream.
April 20, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
I tend not to be a big fan of the unofficial marijuana holiday known as 4/20, but this new CNN article suggested to me the title of this post. The CNN piece is headlined "Universities meet growing demand with Weed 101," and I am lucky that it mentions the course I teach at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. The article has me thinking that everyone should try to learn something new about marijuana and its impacts today. And here are snippets from the article about some teaching efforts in this space:
The facts about marijuana are still at the center of the debate, because while states are more permissive, federal law still puts marijuana in the same category as heroin: a Schedule I drug with "no currently accepted medical use," at least in the eyes of the federal government. That leaves researchers and universities offering classes in uncharted waters.
Despite the limits, a handful of determined professors have stepped up, without textbooks or well-trod academic territory, and created courses to try to ensure that the next generation is prepared to match the public's interest. There seems to be only one "weed major," the medicinal plant chemistry program at Northern Michigan University, but a growing number of weed-themed classes are being offered on campuses across the country in law, business, medicine and general science.
In 2013, the Washington Attorney General's Office provided Beatriz Carlini, a research scientist at the university's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, with funds to develop training modules for health professionals who can get continuing education credit. They learn about how cannabis works and about its best uses; a second module teaches best clinical practices.
Marijuana is legal in its recreational and medicinal forms in Washington, and with more legal access comes a public desire for more education. But unless your doctor is in his or her late 90s and can remember before 1942, when it was legal to prescribe cannabis, more than likely they learned nothing about its benefits in medical school. "Hopefully, we can help patients make good decisions," Carlini said. "People won't wait for these things to resolve federally."
Yu-Fung Lin teaches the physiology of cannabis at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Physiology is a branch of biology that looks at the functions of living organisms and their parts. The elective focuses on how cannabis and cannabinoids impact the body. It also looks at physiological impact, therapeutic values and history. It's the first class of its kind in the University of California system.
Lin, an associate professor who usually teaches medical students, didn't know what to expect from her 55 undergraduates. "I've been quite impressed by their commitment," she said. She hopes her class will inspire future research. "Just knowing what we know, and the limitations of what we know, should inspire students, and they in turn could do research that would be really helpful in this field."
The Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont can't create classes fast enough. Its on-campus medical cannabis class was so popular, it had to relocate twice, settling into the largest available lecture hall according to the University. Its online continuing medical education program and the cannabis science and medicine professional certificate program have wait lists. Enrollees have come from as far away as Thailand. It has created webinars and a cannabis speaker series, and even the school's farm extension provides original plant research about hemp.
Dr. Kalev Freeman, an emergency room physician, and Monique McHenry, a botanist, helped create these courses to address several needs. Freeman said he's seen too many people taken off ambulances after overdosing on opioids, and he hopes to offer information about a "safer alternative to the public." McHenry wanted to find a topic attractive to "young minds to get them interested in science."
Their classes focus on basic science, the drug's physiology, molecular biology and chemistry. The professional training also drills down on practical issues like effective dosing, delivery methods and drug interactions. "The more we can do to focus on getting evidence-based facts out to more medical professionals and the public, the more we will have a real success,"
[Cat] Packer, the Los Angeles marijuana czar, would agree. "We're in a real moment of transition," she said. "These conversations about marijuana are incredibly complex. I found I can't have a conversation about the law without talking about health and social justice issues and enforcement issues." It sounds like the perfect material for more college.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Vice News has this notable new story under the headline "Sen. Chuck Schumer to introduce bill to 'decriminalize' marijuana." Here are the details:
In an exclusive interview with VICE News, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed he is putting his name on legislation that he said is aimed at “decriminalizing” marijuana at the federal level.
For Schumer, this is a shift. While he has backed medical marijuana and the rights of states to experiment with legal sales of pot, what he is proposing is a seismic shift in federal drug policy . “Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” Schumer said....
The legislation, which Schumer’s office expects will be released within the next week, has six main points. First, it would remove marijuana from Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances, which would end federal prohibition and leave it up to states to decide how to regulate the drug. Schumer stopped short of calling it legalization, but de-scheduling would essentially make marijuana legal at the federal level.
His bill would also would create some funding for minority and women-owned marijuana businesses, provide money for research into overall effects of marijuana and it’s specific effect on driving impairment. And lastly, it would “maintain federal authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does alcohol and tobacco,” which Schumer said is to make sure marijuana businesses aren’t targeting children with their ads.
Schumer went further saying that he would support legalization in his home state of New York as well as any other state that wants to move in that direction. “My personal view is legalization is just fine,” he said. “The best thing to do is let each state decide on its own.”
While this looks like an obvious election year-play, Schumer claimed it wasn’t about he looming 2018 or 2020 elections. “I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by the criminalization,” he said. “If we benefit, so be it. But that’s not my motivation.”
When asked if he had ever smoked weed before, Schumer said no, but when pressed on whether he might be willing to try it he said, “Maybe, I’m a little old, but who knows?”
April 19, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by Michael Vitiello and Rosemary Deck just published in the UC Hastings Law Journal. Here is its abstract:
The United States is on a fast-track to a new era in marijuana law. The prospect of a federal pathway to legalization opens a Pandora’s Box of issues for states like California. This Article focuses on Humboldt County in the Emerald Triangle, California’s prime marijuana growing area, and examines how the region might be impacted by state legalization. After a brief look into the development of the marijuana market in Humboldt County, this Article identifies some of the costs that have come with leaving the county outside the legal fold, including a failure to address poor working conditions for seasonal trimmers and an epidemic of sexual harassment that has only recently come to light.
The Article then explores some of the obstacles to bringing the county into the legal economy. Depending on how policymakers and marijuana producers respond to these issues, Humboldt County may become a boom-or-bust economy. The Article then examines some of the benefits of bringing producers into the legal economy, including improved working conditions for the scores of individuals employed in the industry. Failing to bring the county into compliance with county and state cannabis regulations also threatens the goals of marijuana reformers. The Article concludes with thoughts about how Humboldt County might fare in the new world of legal pot. Just as in the wine industry, the region’s best hope may lie in the move towards marijuana appellations, which will require entry into the legal market.